Victoria’s Secret hired a model with Down syndrome, Sofia Jirau, this vision of loveliness in their ad campaigns.
I mean, that photo is literally EVERYWHERE. I’ve been caught in these emotions of feeling surly and then feeling guilty because I’m feeling surly, then surly again but with a tinge of grumpiness (if that’s even possible). I realized that I can love seeing Sofia’s image, I can love the fact that Sofia is modeling and doing what she wants in her one precious and wild life, AND STILL be annoyed with Victoria’s Secret!
I’m annoyed with them though because Victoria Secret has been so awful to us women for so long. I grew up with them in a real place of power. Growing up, I felt suffocated by their ads, their absolutely unreal and unattainable ideals of what a woman was supposed to look like. I felt shame around my body, shame around my self any time I walked by a Victoria’s Secret shop. I felt gross, thick, sad that I would never be like those “angels”, and thus, never be really loved, right?
Savage X and their raucous, racing inclusion – full, breathtaking inclusion of ALL bodies thrilled me to my core. Their video campaigns actually made me cry because I’ve never seen so much inclusion in my life, so much celebration over ALL BODIES, that ALL BODIES can be sensual and sexy and deserve to be garbed in whatever floats their boat. There is so much power in that radical inclusion and acceptance!
So then, Victoria’s Secret, getting slammed all over the place (finally! it took long enough!) were like, “hmm. we gotta get someone disabled up there…” and so of course reached for the most obvious of all ambulatory disabilities, Down syndrome.
More than anything, that reminds me of the racist white guy who, while being blatantly racist in all areas of his life, has that one black coworker that he talked to once over the water cooler, then bought Girl Scout cookies from. That interaction becomes his one black “friend,” with the Girl Scout cookie purchase being proof of his support of Black Lives Matter.
My point being: it’s going to take a whole lot more than a few hires of people who aren’t skinny white typical models for Victoria’s Secret to prove they are really IN and understand, support and promote the beauty and value of ALL bodies. This needs to be more than what it feels like – a damage control campaign – for it have any real or lasting value.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.